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Music in companies: What to bear in mind
By playing the right background music in your shop, you assure your customers a pleasant shopping experience and may even influence their buying behaviour.
Photo: Tana888 /
Text by Liane Paasila, Martin Korrodi and Giorgio Tebaldi
Music plays an important role in many businesses. It creates a pleasant atmosphere for customers, guests, and employees, it enhances advertising messages, and is an important part of corporate events. The rights to use music are easy to obtain from SUISA. Depending on the type of use, different tariffs and rates apply.

Companies are aware of the impact music has on their business. Retailers employ professional sound companies to offer their customers a pleasant shopping experience – and encourage them to buy your products. Medical practices play soothing background music to help their patients relax – none wants to listen to heavy metal during a medical examination or treatment. And commercials too only work with the right music, often specially commissioned. In short, there are any number of examples of the ways in which music can contribute to the success of a business.

Remuneration for composers, lyricists, and publishers

It follows that those who compose the music and write the lyrics – the authors – are entitled to payment. This is done through SUISA, which grants licences for the different music uses and collects the fees in exchange. The amount of the licence fees depends essentially on the value status of the music in the corresponding use. For example, in the case of a symphonic concert, which one generally attends just for the music, the fees will be higher than for the background music in the waiting room at the doctor’s where listening to music is not the main purpose of the visit.

Music from all over the world thanks to SUISA

The tariffs for the different music uses are negotiated at regular intervals between SUISA and the associations of users (e.g. Gastrosuisse for music uses in the hospitality industry); they are jointly set, and then approved by the Federal Arbitration Commission for Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights.

And because SUISA represents the entire world repertoire in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, a licence from SUISA allows the holder to use virtually any music, from anywhere the world over. SUISA distributes the proceeds worldwide to the authors and publishers of the music thus used. For each CHF 100 it collects, SUISA distributes CHF 87 to music authors and publishers.

SUISA issues licences to over 120.000 users, including radio and TV broadcasters, concert organisers, clubs, cafés and restaurants, event and party organisers, shop owners, and online music services. This year, SUISA is planning to conduct a targeted market campaign covering music uses in businesses and will be contacting potential customers directly with its offerings.

Music uses in companies

Three of the most common music uses in businesses are explained below:

1. Background music in sales rooms and offices

In Switzerland, over 100,000 businesses play music via different technologies to create the desired atmosphere on their premises – sales rooms, offices, waiting rooms, etc. In company cars, when on hold, or in the lift, music entertains your customers and employees. Various studies show that music also serves to steer consumer behaviour.

Such uses of music in businesses qualify as public uses and are subject to a fee. Businesses accordingly pay a fee under Common Tariff 3a (CT 3a) to the authors, publishers, artists, or producers. “Common” means that in addition to covering the copyrights managed by SUISA, the tariff also covers those of the other copyright administration societies like Swissperform (for performing artists and producers) and Suissimage (for film creators). SUISA acts as central collecting agent for this tariff on behalf of all the Swiss collecting societies and distributes their share of the collected revenues to the authors and publishers of the music.

Examples of background music uses (CT 3a)
• Office premises (e.g. common rooms, offices, meeting rooms)
• Sales areas (e.g. sales rooms, restaurants, inns and hotels)
• Company vehicles
• Lines on hold
• Museums, exhibitions
• Medical practices (patient rooms, surgeries, waiting rooms)
• Retransmission of radio broadcasts and music recordings
• Retransmission of TV broadcasts and films (film projections with announced time and venue; public viewings on giant screens with a diagonal exceeding 3 metres are regulated separately).
• Operation of interactive multimedia terminals
Further information background music uses (CT 3a)
CT 3a portal
SUISA website, about CT 3a:
Distribution of CT 3a revenues:

2. Videos and films with music on the Internet

Ever more businesses are relying on digital formats to reach their customers through professional websites or contributions to social media. Digital communication is important to reach and maintain a connection with customers and other target groups, and not only in extra-ordinary times like during this pandemic. Videos with a musical backdrop play an essential role in this regard, contributing to make a product or service more appealing to customers.

Persons wishing to use a music recording in a video must first understand the distinction between the two types of licensable rights, namely:

  • on the one hand, the rights in the audio recording which are held by the record label;
  • on the other, the copyrights in the work itself, i.e. the composition and lyrics, if any, which are held by the music publisher and/or the authors.

The record label is responsible for the neighbouring rights in the audio recording. In the case of a video recording with music, permission and licences for the synchronisation and re-recording of the recording must be obtained from the label.

For the author’s rights in the work, the music publisher and SUISA are responsible. SUISA grants licences for the reproduction of the work as part of the video production, and for the making available of the work in the video on an own website and/or on social media platforms. The music publisher grants the licence for the synchronisation right in a work. To publish a video with a musical backdrop, one must first contact the publisher and ask whether the song can actually be used in a video.

The licensing procedure is basically the same for any company. For smaller firms with no more than 49 employees and annual turnover up to CHF 9 million, SUISA offers an all-in solution with its partner Audion. You can purchase a licence covering both the author’s rights and those of the label/producer for an annual fee of CHF 344. Thanks to this all-in arrangement, small businesses may use as many short videos with music as they wish to promote their image, products, and services on their website and social media profiles. This arrangement ensures easy access to a licence for the use of music protected by copyright.

Further information about the use of videos with music on websites
Customer portal Music on websites
SUISAblog articles about the all-in arrangement:

3. Music for company events

Christmas parties, general meetings, product presentations – music is often an important component of company events. These are licensed under Common Tariff Hb (CT Hb) which regulates music for dance and entertainment outside the hospitality industry. CT Hb applies to live performances: a band hired for the Christmas party, for example, or a DJ at a staff party, as well as events with musical intermissions such as general meetings, or company events organised for customers.

In terms of rates, the tariff distinguishes between small and large events. Small events are those organised in venues with a capacity of up to 400 people. The fees here are flat fees, per day and per event, depending on the number of persons attending. In the case of large events, since companies do not generally sell tickets for admission, tariff rates are calculated based on the costs sustained in connection with the use of the music. These costs typically consist of the artists’ fees and expenses, instrument rental fees, and the rent charged for the venue. If admission is charged, other calculation bases may apply.

The tariff also provides for a number of discounts – for example, for companies that conclude a contract with SUISA under CT Hb for all their events, or which organise more than 10 events per year.

Companies in the hospitality industry
Inns, pubs, and restaurants:
For entertainment and dance events in restaurants and the like, the applicable tariff is CT H, not CT Hb. CT H applies to the same events as CT Hb, but because of the association with food and beverage, another calculation model is used which takes into account the price of the cheapest alcoholic beverage in addition to the number of persons attending and the admission price.
It is not always clear for hotels what surface areas to use as the calculation basis, so the following should be helpful: CT 3a also applies to the surface area of hotel rooms. SUISA often receives reports from hotels where the surface areas of the rooms have not been included in the total usage area. For hotel rooms, depending on the total area concerned (rooms and common rooms), an additional fee is charged on top of the base fee (Common Tariff 3a, section 6).
Further information about music events
Outside the hospitality industry, CT Hb:
For the hospitality industry, CT H:

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